Robby Bell Puts Kawasaki on Top at Baja 500 - Video
For the past 15 years at the SCORE Baja 500 Honda has held court in the Pro Motorcycle class, but today Honda’s reign ended when the Monster Energy THR Motorsports Precision Concepts Kawasaki team of Robby Bell, Steven Hengeveld and David Pearson earned the victory. It is Kawasaki’s ninth win at the 500, but it is Kawasaki’s first win at the event since 1996.
“We started off third today and got to Ojos (Negros) and we had a little boo-boo,” Hengeveld explained at the finish line. “We missed a pit and we actually ended up riding by our pit and we had to end up bumming some fuel from some locals.”
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Although Hengeveld said “we” it was actually Bell who started the race and missed the first stop. Bell later explained that he was told he was so close to his pit team that he nearly hit the gas can as he passed.
“Through maybe a little miscommunication and I just wasn’t paying enough attention I blew right by our first pit,” Bell explained. “He said I was like five feet from him – never saw him. I thought I threw the race away. I thought we were going to run out of gas. I thought we were done before we even got started.”
As it turns out he hadn’t lost the race. In fact, each of the major teams had some issue to overcome during this year’s 500. Aside from the Kawasaki team, JCR Honda fielded a solid effort with of Colton Udall, David Kamo and Timmy Weigand on the 1x bike. KTM also came out with two teams this year – the 2x bike piloted by Mike Brown and Quinn Cody, and the 7x bike featuring an injured Kurt Caselli (who only rode it off the line), Ivan Ramirez and Dakar legend Mark Coma.
The JCR Honda team had a solid start to the race until a small accident eventually created a larger one.
“It went really good at the beginning until race mile 105,” Udall said. “Just a small crash and I bent the front disc just by tipping over. Instead of stopping and fixing it the way I should have … I didn’t and I ended up crashing harder and bent the bike and pinched the exhaust and it hindered the speed of the bike.
“I kept it going and I pretty much lost the lead two miles from when I got off, which was at 170. We needed to stay in front, stay out of the dust. Pretty much it comes down to me crashing and then all the things that were the result of when I crashed the bike. I can’t crash the bike.”
Kamo took the second leg of the race from mile 170 and Weigand rode the bike the rest of the way to the finish, though the plan had been for Udall to take the final home stretch since he was the most familiar with that last section. Unfortunately during his second crash he injured his shoulder and was unable to get back on the bike. In the end, the JCR Honda team just couldn’t overcome the time difference and finished 2 minutes and 28 seconds behind the Bell and the Kawasaki team.
The 7x KTM bike also had early race trouble but theirs was relaed to fuel issues related to a carburetor jetting screw, yet Ivan Ramirez was still able to bring the bike across the line physically third. The team finished 8 minutes and 36 seconds behind the winning Kawasaki.
The Baja 500 victory for the THR Motorsports Monster Energy Kawasaki was the seventh for Hengeveld, the fourth for Bell and the first for Pearson. Pearson was excited to get his first victory at the 500, and his effort certainly contributed as he was able to regain the lead.
“By the time I got on the bike we were still second overall but like four minutes behind the Honda team, so I just rode as good as I could, and by the time we got to Otay we had about a three-minute lead,” he said. “We just rode our race, tried not to make mistakes and crash.”
After the race, we asked a beaming Bell what the win meant to the team.
“Everyone knows Honda’s history in Baja,” he said. “They are deep-rooted in Baja, but Kawasaki has history here too, and it feels great to revisit that history and bring Kawasaki back on top.”
SCORE UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
1. Robby Bell 9:10:03
2. Colton Udall 9:12:31
3. Kurt Caselli 9:18:39
4. Mark Samuels 9:48:24
5. Jim Oneal 9:49:35
6. Kendall Norman 9:49:38
7. Francisco Arredondo 10:04:15
8. Fransisco Septien 10:12:24
9. A.J. Stewart 10:15:02
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